As the YRUU representative on the Youth Ministry Implementation Working Group, and as someone who has been involved with the consulting and implementing of this youth ministry initiative for the last year and a half, I would like to speak to what happened this weekend with the ending of continental YRUU. These are my personal thoughts and they do not necessarily agree with the UUA’s position or YRUU Steering Committee's position.
First, I want to express my regret. One word that has been thrown around a lot at last weekend’s Implementation Working Group meeting is “transparency.” Continental YRUU’s disbandment has been an unspoken administrative objective for years, but it has not been made explicit to those whom that decision most deeply affects: youth. I am dismayed that, after so much talk about multigenerational relationships, multigenerational communication effectively broke down out of fear of retaliation. The end of continental YRUU should have been clearly in the cards from the start, not sprung upon the youth as a “final step.”
That said, we cannot choose to accept this with the finality with which it was presented. It has been demonstrated to us, on so many painful occasions, that this continental leadership structure does not work. It does not efficiently disseminate information to district and congregational levels of youth leadership. It does not give youth a strong and influential voice within the institution. It is not accessible to the great majority of Unitarian Universalist youth. And, most importantly, it does not provide authentic empowerment to young folks, especially Queer/Genderqueer youth, Youth of Color, and otherwise marginalized youth. As stated at the Summit on youth ministry, YRUU cannot continue to function as it does: with great ineptitude at a high cost to all. What exists is beyond resuscitation.
It’s clearly time for something new. But starting again, unlike letting go process, cannot be an administrative mandate. If we’re going to take this back, then let’s do it. Let the staff and the administration know how you feel. Send emails and calls to Jesse Jaeger (617-948-4359, email@example.com), Judith Frediani (617-948-4373, firstname.lastname@example.org), and Bill Sinkford (617-948-4301, email@example.com). Tell them you’re pissed (I did), but tell them where you see us going from here. Just don’t, for your individual higher power’s sake, do nothing. Without feedback, this process will become patronizing and even more damaging than what is in place.
It should also be made clear that aside from providing them with more financial and staff resources, this does not yet affect the current structures of the youth movement at the district or congregational levels. Our youth groups and cons will only change as much as we individually wish them to.
We, as a faith, fight what it aged and out-of-touch. We are a faith about awakening the spirit, not imposing individual creed on others. We are a movement that challenges old standards and revisions our practices towards more equitable ends, not one that is complicit with the status quo. We, as a people, challenge and constantly renew our convictions; we do not, and will never, accept mandates as Truth. Change is a rejuvenating process for us, and as long as we are liberal, inquisitive, courageous, and open-hearted, Unitarian Universalism will always remain a Young Faith.
To borrow the words of a dear friend:
Let’s forgive ourselves. Let’s forgive each other. Let’s begin again in love.
Yours with Faith,